To say that my opening-week performance in college football was a little disappointing is akin to saying Elton John is a little flamboyant or Mel Gibson is a little off his rocker. I can see the e-mails flooding into the editor now: Who is responsible for hiring this clown? For the love of God, bring in the monkey!
My response? Those weren’t my picks, folks. Nope, I let a friend borrow my computer and unbeknownst to me, he did last week’s column. (Hey, if Paris Hilton can play the “It wasn’t mine!” card …)
Seriously, though, it certainly didn’t take long to be reminded that the line between winning and losing is as thin as an Olsen twin. Consider: My biggest play, on Missouri (-12½ over Illinois), failed to come in by three points (Missouri, which settled for three field goals of less than 35 yards, won by 10); and my second-biggest play, on USC (-21 over Hawaii), was up 19 points late in the fourth quarter (the Trojans finished the game with the ball on Hawaii’s 35-yard line).
Then there was that half-point loser on Utah: Laying 3½ points to Pitt, the Utes won 27-24 in overtime on a field goal that was the distance of an extra point.
If those three games had gone my way, it would’ve been a profitable opening week. Of course, if my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle.
I went 3-6 overall for a loss of $745, dropping my bankroll to $4,860, but things will be different this week.
$440 (to win $400) on COWBOYS (-4) at Redskins: The NFL preseason is meaningless. The Cowboys looked dreadful in August, with the first-string offense producing just one touchdown in five games, but injuries to the offensive line led to vanilla play-calling in an effort to keep QB Tony Romo upright. Now that the bullets are flying for real, we’ll see a different Cowboys squad. Three points of interest: Dallas has taken the last two meetings in D.C. by a combined score of 31-10; the Redskins have cashed in just three of their last 14 home games; and new Washington QB Donovan McNabb is bothered by a high ankle sprain.
$220 (to win $200) on WISCONSIN (-37) vs. San Jose State: The Badgers’ 41-21 win at UNLV was a much bigger blowout than the score suggests. Wisconsin outgained the Rebels 475-217, and if not for two turnovers that led directly to two of UNLV’s three touchdowns, the Badgers would’ve won by at least 35 points. Now Wisconsin returns home and faces an opponent that’s far worse than UNLV. San Jose State got pummeled in a 48-3 season-opening loss at top-ranked Alabama, failing to cover a 40-point spread while producing just 175 total yards and seven first downs to Alabama’s 591 yards and 30 first downs.
$110 (to win $100) on TEXANS (+2½) vs. Colts: Indianapolis has won 15 of 16 all-time meetings with the Texans, including a 35-27 win in Houston last year when the Colts climbed out of a 17-0 hole. In fact, Indy won (and covered) all seven of its road games that it tried to win last season and is 12-5-1 against the spread in its last 18 games overall. So why are the Colts less than a field-goal favorite in this game? Something smells fishy here. Indy has come out of the gate slow the last two years, opening with a 29-13 loss to the Bears in 2009 and barely getting by Jacksonville 14-12 last year—and both those games were at home.
$110 (to win $100) on MICHIGAN (+4) at Notre Dame: I was much more impressed with Michigan’s 30-10 home rout of UConn than Notre Dame’s 23-12 home win over Purdue. For one thing, the Wolverines’ offense—which was so impotent in coach Rich Rodriguez’s first two years that Viagra offered to sign on as a corporate sponsor—was magnificent. Michigan piled up 473 yards (287 rushing), went 14-for-19 on third down and QB Denard Robinson was a one-man wrecking crew (19-for-22 passing, 383 combined rushing and passing yards).
BEST OF THE REST: Vanderbilt +10 vs. LSU ($66); Chiefs +4½ vs. Chargers ($55); Bengals +4½ at Patriots ($44); Tennessee +13 vs. Oregon ($44); Georgia Tech -13½ at Kansas ($33); Oklahoma (-8½) vs. Florida State ($33).